The University of Iowa’s new Visual Arts Building is a 126,000-sf facility that will house the functions of the School of Art & Art history, which were previously held in the university’s 1936 Art Building. The new building provides a space for ceramics, sculpture, metals, photography, printmaking, 3D design, intermedia, animation, and graphic design. There is also space for graduate student studies, faculty and staff studios and offices, and gallery space.
The Visual Arts Building uses a punched concrete frame structure composed of cast-in-place concrete to provide thermal mass at the exterior of the building. Meanwhile, “bubble” slabs that incorporate the Cobiax bubble deck system provide radiant cooling and heating.
BNIM, which worked in collaboration with Steven Holl Architects, designed the irregular shape of the building through the use of computer modeling software. This same software was also used to coordinate the installation of the exposed mechanical pipes and ductwork, which proved to be a complex task.
Significant daylighting, natural ventilation at the atrium skylight, thermal mass storage, a thermal active slab heating and cooling system, and highly efficient HVAC systems are key components of the design.
These design components work toward the ultimate goal of the building, which is to provide as much connection and communication between departments as possible. A key aspect of this is the vertical carving out of large open floor plates. Additionally, several vertical cutouts are designed to increase the interaction between the facility’s four levels. The stairs have also been shaped to increase interaction and discussion among the building’s users. Some of the sculptural open stairs stop at large landings with tables and chairs while others open into lounge spaces with built in seating.
The Visual Arts Building officially opened on Oct. 7.